A new NBER paper argues that food stamps lead people to work less, especially single family parents:

Labor supply theory makes strong predictions about how the introduction of a social welfare program impacts work effort…. We use the cross-county introduction of the program in the 1960s and 1970s to estimate the impact of the program on the extensive and intensive margins of labor supply, earnings, and family cash income. Consistent with theory, we find modest reductions in employment and hours worked when food stamps are introduced. The results are larger for single-parent families.

This is not to say by any means that food stamps are not still a desirable program, but it is always worth thinking about how you can improve or replace existing welfare programs to better align incentives. This is a reminder that food stamps are not without their potential problems.

Of course, one could see single parents being able to spend more time with their kids as a benefit of this, in fact one might see positive impacts on grades and other outcomes via this mechanism. In either case, it’s important to know that food stamps affect work incentives.

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